Friday, October 15, 2004
The Anglican Reformation of the 21st Century?
On the "eve" of the release of the so-called Eames Commission Report (whatever its consequences), I believe we are living in the early stages of what may later be known as "the Anglican Reformation."
As Anglicans, our existence as a distinct communion of the catholic Church stems from the English Reformation. But what we are experiencing—and are about to see in full bloom, hopefully—is a worldwide reformation, a reformation from the global South that can be described as Anglican but not necessarily English. Our converts (from the British Empire days) have become our betters, and now the African and third-world Anglicans are leading us in the way of the truth (while some of our own kick and scream and divorce themselves from their more honorable heirs). Because of this, I seriously doubt the histories will remember our era as the Second English Reformation—rather, it will be a new birth, a new movement of the Holy Spirit, a new thing altogether that produces new entities, fellowships and ministry opportunities.
If we know our history, we know that in times like these there are two types of Christians: those who separate from the old institutions, working for reformation from the outside, and those who remain in them, working for reformation from the inside. Different individuals are called to different ministries—"some prophets, some teachers, some evangelists." But we work toward a common goal, and in the end, in the histories, we are known as being pretty much on the same side.
Tragically, this is often because we all end up in the same position, literally on the same "losing" side. In the end, we are unable to save the sinking ship, and even those who stayed aboard in a valiant effort to resurrect the damned thing, well, they end up dead (or at least unable to save the ship). And so all the faithful are left in a new entity that exists as an unsuccessful protest movement that was unable to accomplish its attempted reforms.
One would hope that subsequent generations might be granted more success in their efforts. Whether this will be the case in the Anglican Reformation remains to be seen.
Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere in steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer , p. 235, Proper 24)
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